Monday, 15 September 2008

"May they all be one..."

Saturday was the day for the annual Sponsored Ride (or walk) in aid of Gloucestershire Historic Churches Trust, and a beautiful day it was too! After all the rain we have had, many prayers were no doubt offered - and they were answered.

At about 12.30, Fr. Tom Smith and I set off from home (Tom on Caroline's bike), and by the time we returned at 4, we had notched up 21 local church buildings on our list. (I have made a photographic record for my sponsors - see here). There are of course many more than that in Cheltenham, altogether. Ten of those we visited were locked, and there was a wedding at Christ Church, but we were able to see inside the other ten.

Very interesting it was. A huge amount of love is lavished on our churches - not to mention money; but to what end? Today, society in general is Godless. Children are not taught to pray. The Ten Commandments? How many can name them all, or even a few?

"See how these Christians love one another," pagans would say in the early days; but how can we love one another if we don't so much as acknowledge that we are part of the same faith-based community? Are we not spending too much time conserving our historic church properties, at the expense of the Christian mission, "Go and teach all nations"?

I echo the words written following a visit to Rome more than fifty years ago by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Geoffrey Fisher, in a letter to the subsequent pope, Paul VI, "I am sure that such personal contacts as we enjoyed during this visit are the best way of creating that spirit of love and understanding between members of different theological traditions which is a prerequisite for closer unity in the future."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for those beautiful pictures of some of Cheltenham's fine churches.

I grew up in Cheltenham and have a great fondness for many of them. S. Greg's (of course), Christ Church and the Middleton churches of All Saints, S. Stephen et al.

Some of Cheltenham's more modern churches are particularly fine, too, such as S. Thomas More, S. Michael, S. Aidan, Emmanuel and Highbury Congregational.

Upon a recent visit, however, I was saddened to see what had become of Salem Baptist Church, which had such a magnificent decorated gothic facade (and used to offer an excellent town centre ministry). Why do they so often become pubs?

Incidently, my home parish of S. Mary, Ryde, here on the I.o.W. and S. Greg's were designed by the same architect - Mr. Hansom, himself.